New Fuqua Dean Addresses Class

After a strenuous first year at Fuqua, many students relished the opportunity to get some much needed distance between themselves and all things Durham during their internships. For me, personally, there were times during the summer in which Fuqua seemed like a faint memory. But when news of Dean Blair Sheppard’s resignation broke, somehow, everyone felt very connected, if only temporarily.

During our first week of activities in late August, the second-year class got its first exposure to the new dean, Bill Boulding. He may be a new face to many of the second-year students, but he is certainly no stranger at Fuqua, and he showed himself as a bona fide Dukie immediately. In what seemed to be characteristic of our student body, his first address to the class was not one of a congratulatory nature, but was rather a challenge of sorts. He intimated that business schools, more so than other institutions, have been slow to react to the nuances of a changing marketplace, that they’ve been called upon to produce more than just technically proficient employees and have fallen short. He alluded to a sweeping complacency that has plagued business schools, and implored his charges to overcome this together.

Both during and after the gripping address, I found myself trying to ponder what it meant for my class. This was either a scathing indictment, or a ringing endorsement. Given his long tenure at this school, I gave us the benefit of the doubt and assumed the latter. It seemed as if we were being called upon to help overcome this characteristic sluggishness. After 12 months, a dozen or so classes, and one huge pain of a career search, had we grown to the extent where we could affect some kind of material change? Was this what we were brought to Fuqua for in the first place?

I realized that at Fuqua we may be uniquely suited to the task. Call it hubris, or something worse, but I believe we are a school that is fully capable of producing high quality leadership. It may sound like lip service, but I think the collaborative nature of work at Fuqua is particularly compatible with a marketplace that stresses innovation, and demands input from a diverse array of interested parties. The time in which unilateral action will suffice has long since passed; the market now demands more accountability of its participants, and this necessarily entails working together. Each Fuqua class I’ve had has emphasized a group learning pedagogy; each club has compelled me to work with faculty, students, administrators, and even alumni to reach goals that improve the well-being of our institution. Thought leadership, to be sure, has long been the bailiwick of Fuqua: our research is regarded with universal acclaim. But this has taken on a new meaning as we’ve made greater efforts at working together, and have fortified the meaning of Team Fuqua.

Indeed, Mr. Boulding concluded his remarks later in the day by introducing another distinction between the first year and second year. He suggested that during the first year, we focused single-mindedly on our own personal identities: how we would fare going to school for the first time in a few years, and what we wanted to do with the rest of our careers. But he also requested that we think about how that’s changed, and it truly resonated with me that the second year is much more about who we are as a school. The combination of the two statements implied that hereafter our identities will inextricably be linked, that we will always be Fuquans first. The gist I got from my classmates was that it was completely acceptable.